Answer given by Ms Kroes on behalf of the Commission
The Commission is aware of the announcement made by KPN that it will charge users to use services such as Skype and Whatsapp.
The Commission shares the concern raised by consumers and the Honourable Members about blocking of Internet services.
At the same time, the Commission is of the opinion that charging for specific Internet services is not per se prohibited under the EU Telecom framework. Innovative business models should be allowed to develop, without overly rigid regulation that may impede development of services that meet specific consumer demand, provided consumers are able to access the services and applications of their choice, and are duly informed about any limitation applied.
The revised telecoms framework, which had to be implemented by the Member States by 25 May 2011, contains enhanced tools for dealing with net neutrality issues. The Commission will monitor how effectively these provisions will be used by national regulatory authorities to ensure the open character of the Internet.
The Commission is keeping a watchful eye on developments in the market and has asked the Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications (BEREC) to undertake a rigorous fact-finding exercise on issues such as barriers to switching operators, blocking or throttling of Internet traffic as well as transparency and quality of service. The Commission will publish, by the end of the year, the evidence that comes to light from BEREC’s investigations. On the basis of the evidence available, the Commission will decide on whether additional measures are necessary.
Until BEREC has reported, legislation laying down obligations for all Internet service providers (ISPs), regardless of their market position or profile, should not prejudge the outcome of that exercise.
Finally, the use of any technology such as deep packet inspection technology to support specific business models need to comply with the EU rules on confidentiality of electronic communications. These rules are enforced in individual cases by the responsible national authorities — typically the data protection authorities or the telecom national regulatory authorities (NRAs). OPTA, the Dutch telecoms regulatory authority, has published on 30 June a report on this matter: